Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gas Plays an Explosive Role in the War in Syria

Gas as an aspect of the war in Syria is very much underexposed. Actually it's about a pipeline that is of vital interest to Europe and Qatar. It's a game of chess on a global stage

There's another side to the war in Syria that is of strategic importance: at stake are the economic future of the region and its natural resources

In "Build up of the Russian war fleet largest since the Cold War" we have seen that Syria is the battle field in the fight over the hegemony of the Islamic Middle East between Sunni and Shia Islam. The Russians are not the only ones building up their presence in the region. An American marine vessel just arrived in the Israeli port of Eilat; the Russian Pacific Fleet just passed the Suez Canal and has arrived in the East Med. It seems the stage is now set for a major confrontation. 

Who is the paymaster?

The Financial Times reported that Qatar so far has spent 3 billion dollars arming the rebels. It has transpired from various interviews with rebel leaders and western officials that Qatar's role is increasingly controversial. The emirate is the biggest donor in the war and is paying defectors enormous amounts of money. 

Qatar is sitting on a gargantuan natural gas deposit, the third largest in the world. The intervention in Syria is an aggressive bid for the recognition of its dominant role in the region. First they helped the overthrow of Ghadaffi, then the tribes of Mali were encouraged to Jihad. But that's not all. 

Nabucco, the slave rebellion

A map of the region explains why Qatar is behaving as it does. The emirate is a geographical prisoner in a tiny enclave on the Persian Gulf. It depends on the export of LNG (liquid gas), because Saudi Arabia is blocking the construction of pipelines.

In 2009 the construction of a pipeline was considered to Europe, through Saudi Arabia and Turkey, connecting to the Nabucco pipeline, but the Saudis rejected the deal. The market of LNG is reaching saturation point. Expansion to Europe is the only viable option. And Europe is fed up with its dependence on the Russian monopolist. 

Assad is an obstacle

The discovery of natural gas in Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus and Syria is opening new opportunities to bypass Saudi Arabia. Pipelines in Turkey are already in place. But Assad is blocking the way. Turkey and Qatar want to remove Assad so that a local chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood can assume power.

The Brotherhood is the best organized political movement in the Middle East. It will be able to prevent the efforts by Saudi Arabia to install a Wahhabi regime in Syria. This explains why the West suddenly sees the Muslim Brotherhood as 'moderate'. Egypt, the country where the Brotherhood came to power, is the new blue print for democracy, Islamic style.

Planning for the future

The Turkish town of Adana, close to the border with Syria, is the command center of the rebellion against Assad. The Saudis have proposed to build a Turko/Saudi/Qatari joint venture. The Turks are attracted to the idea. The war will last for many months yet, but at the end of road lie lucrative reconstruction contracts and the development of gas fields. 

Assad will have to go one way or another. Nothing personal, just business. Qatar's future depends on it. The pipeline will enable it to double its LNG production. 

European interests

Bypassing Russia, the connection to Nabucco (videographic) will enable the transport of natural gas from central Asia and the Middle East to Europe. Turkey has already signed contracts with four European countries. The project is supported by EU subsidies so as to limit European dependence on Russia gas. 

But it will all come to naught as long as Russia's ally, Assad is in power in Syria. Therefore the Qataris are encouraging the 'civil war' and support it by hiring well paid mercenaries.

Russia has its own interests to supply Europe with natural gas through its own pipelines. Nabucco would mean an enormous loss to Gazprom. 

A sock puppet in Syria

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, between April 2012 and March 2013 Qatar has delivered two arms shipments of over 70 flights via Turkey. The US is also delivering weapons (more in the next article in this series). It is astonishing that only now the suppliers have woken up to the danger that some of the arms may fall into the hands of the local Al Qaeda franchise, Jabhat al-Nusrah.

Qatar's support for the Islamists isn't making it any popular with the neighbors. There has been criticism that its meddling has split the rebellion in Syria. Saudi Arabia has reacted by strengthening its ties to the rebels. The Saudis want to install their own sock puppet in Syria, enabling them to dictate terms to Qatar and Europe. 


Qatar prides itself that its politics are based on cooperation with the stake holders. Very much unlike the evil Israelis and Americans! But the West's Just War Doctrine doesn't allow them to go to war on their own behalf. The Qataris on the other hand couldn't care less that half the population of Syria is sacrificed to their gas trade. 

Both sides are using Syria as a chess board, in a game in which natural resources and national interests are at stake; Israel and the US are on the side of the petrodollars, while Russia - and to a lesser extent also China - on the other. They are refusing to topple a government, which would empower the Gulf states even more.

Russian push back

Up until now the premise had been that Russia would eventually come round. But with the arrival of the Russian submarines in Cyprus the plot is thickening: Russia is no longer willing to acommodate. The interests of Gazprom are at stake! Things are heating up in the East.

Reposted from May 20, 2013